A worker at a Dallas car shop was arrested Tuesday and accused of certifying hundreds of vehicles as safe without performing the required tests.
At the time of his arrest, Justin Wells, 23, was out on bond from a previous arrest in which he was accused of doing the same thing.
“He’s a hard learner,” said Lt. Jerry Kitchens, commander of the Dallas County Sheriff’s Emissions Enforcement Program. “He learns the hard way.”
Kitchens said the arrest highlights a rampant problem in North Texas that undermines the state’s vehicle inspection program, allows unsafe cars on the road and contributes pollution to an area with already dirty air.
Part of the inspection is supposed to test vehicles’ emission systems.
But some inspectors are selling the window stickers by rigging the test with a car they know will pass, Kitchens said.
"The integrity of the system is based on the integrity of the inspectors,” he said. “If the inspector doesn't have any integrity, it translates back to the entire system."
In a similar case, criminal investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency last month raided two Arlington vehicle inspection stations, according to court documents obtained by NBC DFW.
The EPA installed hidden surveillance cameras which documented inspectors at Mike’s Autocare and Tommy Tech approving cars they never tested, an agent wrote to obtain a search warrant.
Investigators said the two shops performed nearly 5,000 inspections last year in which the car’s electronic computer did not match to the vehicle which received the inspection sticker, the warrant said.
Some of the vehicles were being sold at used car lots to unsuspecting buyers, the document said.
The owner of the two businesses, Loan Tran, said the inspectors involved were not employees. They merely rented the garage space and no longer work there, Tran said.
In Dallas County, the sheriff’s Emission Enforcement Program has reduced bogus inspections by 50 percent, but it still is a $40 million per year business, Kitchens said.
Another expert agreed that Dallas County’s effort is paying off.
"Dallas County has a very successful program,” said Christopher Klaus of the North Central Texas Council of Governments. “It's been nationally recognized. It's being emulated across the region and across the country."